Sunday, April 26, 2009

TV roundtable

Jim: Roundtable time and, for a change, this is on TV. Only on TV. It's on one network and three shows that air Monday nights. NBC's Chuck, Heroes and Medium. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and me, Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Wally of The Daily Jot, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends. This is a rush transcript. Ava and C.I. take the notes. We thank them for that. Let's get started. Ty, two of the three shows Monday night are ending their season runs.

NBC Mondays

Ty: Correct. Chuck and Heroes wrap up their seasons tomorrow night. Medium continues through Conan O'Brian's Tonight Show debut. Rebecca usually writes about Heroes at her site and Mike generally writes about Chuck at his. So we're going to go them to catch us up to speed and we'll deal with Chuck first since it kicks off Monday nights on NBC. Mike?

Mike: Chuck is a comedy, action-adventure, romance all rolled into one. It's probably my favorite show on TV. Ava and C.I. kept telling me to check it out that first year. They were waiting on reviewing it because they knew it would be on the full season so they had a sentence or two at the start of the season here but at my site I was always quoting them on it, before I started watching it and especially after I did. If you've ever dreamed of getting with someone and felt like you didn't stand a chance, you'll relate to Chuck's feelings for Sarah. And, increasingly, to Sarah's for Chuck. I don't mean her love for him is increasing. She's been in love with him for some time. What's increased in season two is her understanding that their being together is pretty much impossible. The government won't allow it. The show really picked up steam as the season went along and Sarah's not only had to object to Chuck being imprisoned by the US government, she's also had to save him when the US government ordered that he be killed. Sarah's CIA and she's had to repeatedly goes against her own agency. Anyway, Chevy Chase came on as a bad guy and supposedly died last week but at the end we saw he wasn't dead. He's headed to Ellie -- Chuck's sister -- to Ellie's big wedding. Chuck supposedly has lost his intersect power -- having a computer hard drive of US national security information in his head -- and I say supposedly because Ava and C.I. are tight-lipped but I've seen their reactions to questions and I'll stick with "supposedly." So did Chuck lose his power? Is Sarah going to be reassigned as a result? If reassigned, does she go along with that? Will Ellie walk down the aisle? There's a lot going on at this wedding.

Wally: I like Chuck, the show and the character, but my favorite on the show are probably Morgan and Ana. They're secondary characters but I really love them. I do want to object to a scene with them from last Monday. Ana asked Morgan what his dream was early on and he said to be a chef in Hawaii -- I'm giving the very brief summary. He didn't think that would ever happen, thought he was too old, etc. His work at the Best Buy like store called the Buy More has gone down the toilet and his ending was him deciding to quit and he and Ana walk off with the clear impression that they're off to Hawaii. Is that a fair recap, Mike?

Mike: Yes. And I know where you're going.

Wally: Ana was called a whore by the guy who just took over the Buy More. Not when she and Morgan left but the episode before that. She was called a whore by the manager. Now she and Morgan are walking off and the gang -- a gang she's supposedly a part of -- are cheering Morgan -- and only Morgan -- for having the courage to walk out. Where's Ana's cheer? If the thing was supposed to play like the Debra Winger film --

Ava: An Officer & A Gentleman.

Wally: Thanks, that "Way to go Paula!" scene, then Ana should have been carrying Morgan like [Richard] Gere carried Debra Winger. I just thought that was really insulting. These co-workers are supposed to be her friend as well and they don't say a word to applaud her.

Mike: I'd agree with you on that. But Ana's really been ignored all year long. She's been great when they've tossed her a scene or two but she's really only been at the heart of one episode this year. She needs as much, if not more, airtime as Jeff and Lester get. Those are her co-workers and this year has been all about Jeff and Lester who aren't that great. They're funny in small doses. But Ana's always funny. She is funny when she's breaking your heart. She's just really great in the role and they have enough male characters and already sideline Ellie so they really need to start beefing up Ana. If there's a season three, Ana needs to play a much larger role.

Jim: If?

Mike: Chuck's had lousy ratings. It goes to what Ava and C.I. pointed out. First off, Chuck wasn't on all last summer. It was a brand new show for fall 2007. It ended in the spring of 2008 and the network didn't repeat it all summer long. Then boom, it was suddenly time to put it back on the air with new episodes. As I've noted at my site and Ava and C.I. noted here, the first episodes of the second season sucked. It was guest-star city and the guest stars were taking all the action and the characters we know and love were reduced to extras. Chevy Chase hasn't been that way. His character's written better -- and he plays the character better than the start of the season guest stars.

Dona: I like Chuck. The show and all the characters. But this season has been off in terms of Ana and Ellie and not only have Jeff and Lester gotten way too much time -- it's like when everyone had to stop watching Moonlighting because Booger was getting more time than Agnes and Maddie -- but for Chuck to finally tell someone he was working for the CIA and for it to be Devin and not his own sister? There's no reason for that. If Devin had immediately realized that this meant he was drugged and he didn't make out with that woman at his bachelor party, I could have let it slide. It would mean he wasn't going to be eaten with guilt anymore. But that's not where it's gone and it just seemed one more time where the show could have utilized a character, a female one, but instead went with the male. Devin's marrying Chuck's sister. Chuck doesn't need to bond with his sister's husband. They need to get along but if someone needed a bonding at that moment, it was Ellie whose whole life was falling apart with her father disappearing again and Chuck as well.

Mike: Ellie did a lot more in the first season. What's happened is Jeff and Lester are on TOO much. They take up TOO much time. You've got more guest stars and they require time as well. And because all spare time gets tossed to Jeff and Lester, Ellie and Ana aren't doing hardly anything. And Jeff and Lester aren't as funny if you're exposed to them all the time.

Jim: So Mike, prediction?

Mike: I really don't think we'll have answers at the end of the finale. Maybe I'm wrong. I think we'll be left with more questions and I'm sort of wondering if Chuck's going to end up disappearing at the end of the episode.

Jim: That's NBC's first hour of prime time on Monday. Heroes follows it and Heroes will also have a season finale. It's also had lower ratings than last year. Rebecca, bring us up to speed.

Rebecca: The last three episodes were largely soap opera. I mean they were backstory with flashbacks and I mean that for two episodes in a row, you had Angela, Peter, Nathan, Claire, Claire's adopted father, all sitting at the same table in a dive eating lunch and watching television. You honestly felt like it was a soap opera that you could turn on a week later and nothing would have happened. The pacing has been awful.

Elaine: I watch Medium and plan to speak during that but I'm not sure how many watch Heroes? How many are planning to speak?

Cedric: I am.

Elaine: Okay, then I'll be silent until Medium. Go ahead Cedric.

Cedric: Niki-Jessica died. Now her other character died this year. The actress is just being wasted at this point. She had a bi-racial son, Micah, who is back on the show finally. And maybe that's why I liked her. Seeing her with her husband, Micah's father, who was the first African-American with powers on the show. They killed him off as well. But I looked forward to Nikki-Jessica. And then when she became Tracy, I was still interested. They've killed her characters off one too many times. I'm losing interest and I'm so damn sick of all the garabge. It has become so sexist. If a woman has a power, it's rarely an active one, an 'offense' one. She can play defense but that's all she's usually got. And the women die over and over. The runner died.

Stan: Daphne.

Cedric: Yeah, Daphne. Nikkie and Tracy died. Clair's biological mother died. Veronica Mars was on the show --

Rebecca: Elle.

Cedric: Thank you, Elle. And she died. And I've never seen Sylar use her powers after he killed her and took them. Has anyone seen it? All the women die. And each year, with all these women dying, the show wants to bring on more and more males. Syler's got a sibling. It's a male! Over and over where a role could have gone to a woman, they introduce a man. And let's be really honest, I know Rebecca will watch a show for a guy she finds good looking and I will watch a show for a woman I find good looking. But Tim Kring apparently doesn't know that. So Nikki-Jessica, Tracy and Jessica's niece, Micah's cousin, all die or just disappear. Over and over. Or we get the Mexican woman who makes it into this country and boom, time to kill her off so Sylar can get her power. Over and over. I can't stand that doctor and his goony and goody-two-shoe ways. And I've had enough of Matt Parkman as well. I've had more than enough of Hiro and Ande or whatever his name is. And Nathan's gotten on my last nerve this season. About the only characters I can stand right now are Peter and Clair. And they never give Clair anything.

Ruth: I watch all three shows at different times during the week with my grandchildren. On Heroes, I will note that they appear to have written themselves into a corner. The next season, if there is one, either has everyone working to destroy Sylar or there is not much point because, at this point, Sylar has pretty much every power anyone could have. He has killed off how many people now to steal their powers?

Rebecca: That's a good point, Ruth. I hadn't thought of that. But they've pretty much made him indestructable now. Hiro did get back his powers at least. Although I must have missed how. But Baby Parkman had the ability to, if Hiro held him, allow Hiro to still access his powers. Now Hiro can do that without Baby Parkman in his arms or at his side. And Cedric's right, I will watch a show just because I think a guy on it is hot. That's a normal response. And we do want to see people we think are hot on TV.

Marcia: I will use all my time here and not speak elsewhere if I can go Heroes-related. No one objected. Beyonce does not film pretty. In her videos, she can look gorgeous. No film, not the Austin Powers one, not Dreamgirls, none of them, find her looking good. But this new one, which co-stars the actress who played Tracy and Jessica-Nikki, Beyonce looks so bad, I didn't know that was her. I saw that ol' big head and thought it was Gina from Martin.

Cedric: Please note that I'm laughing at that.

Marcia: So she's not looking good and then there's the other thing. Which is? She's ending her film career. She doesn't realize it now but two years from now, no one's going to want to pay to see her. Same thing happened with Angela Bassett who can actually act. Angela played Tina Turner and got rave reviews and ended her career. She was 'too strong' for some people. In this new film, it's Fatal Attraction only the married couple is African-American. And the commercial is all about, "I'm one tough Black Bitch, woman, you messed with the wrong Black Bitch." That's not what she's saying but that's what the advertisement's supposed to convey. There is a difference between a doormat and the role she's playing. The role she's playing is too strong and it will hurt her in future films.

Betty: Because?

Marcia: I know the African-American community. It's very homophobic. I'm an African-American and a lesbian, for any drive-by's passing through. And the implication is going to be Beyonce's a lesbian. She's too strong. She must be a lesbian. I've heard that over and over about Angela Bassett and I know we're going to hear about Beyonce. Whether she is or not, I have no idea. I assume she's straight. But in the African-American community, that is how they put the kiss of death on a woman, start spreading she's a lesbian. And she looks bad in the commercials and she's coming on way too strong.

Betty: I agree with what Marcia's saying and I'll use my time on this instead of on Medium. I was conflicted by the commercial. On the one hand, I was glad that a woman was fighting back -- and the way the commercial plays, Beyonce fighitng non-stop. But I was also thinking about how when it's a White woman, they go out of their way to show how 'feminine' she is. Think Anne Archer in Fatal Attraction or any number of women in those "the gilfriend from hell," "the boss from hell," etc movies. The good girl always has an emphasis on 'girl.' So I do agree with Marcia that Beyonce's coming on way too strong in those advertisements. And I also agree with her -- drive-bys, I'm Black -- that Beyonce will find herself the victim of rumors that are not going to die and are going to insist she's a lesbian because she played a strong woman. It is not a good role for her and I don't know why she took it. She looks bad in the scenes they show on TV, she's apparently 'kicking ass' in a film where her husband appears to do damn little. Does he at least cheat on her? If he doesn't do that and they've built a movie around it, you better believe the homophobia in my community will run wild and not only will Beyonce be dubbed a lesbian but the actor playing her husband will be seen as weak and be called gay because it will be seen as the ulitmate insult. And Marcia's right about Angela. But it's not just Tina, it's setting the car on fire in Waiting To Exhale also. Angela becomes a focal point for a lot of women, replacing a lot of Set It Off references. And guys here that, in my community, and they start really hating Angela Bassett. They start talking trash about her. And the same thing's going to happen with Beyonce. Back to Heroes, I was so glad Nathan got a hair cut. He looks so much better with it close to the scalp on the sides. I'll be silent now.

Jim: Okay, Nathan got a hair cut. Rebecca, is it involving?

Rebecca: It's hard to get too involved. If you do, you're begging for your character to be written off. Especially if it's a woman. I get e-mails since I write about the show at my site. And there is so much fear that Claire is going to die in the cliff-hanger. Logically, they can't kill her off but that's what this pattern of killing off one woman after another has done to the fan base of the show.

Jim: Prediction?

Rebecca: I don't know. I have no idea. And no one's telling me anything.

C.I.: Tim Kring works from an outline, a bible; however, even he's not sure what's going to happen next fall.

Jim: Okay. Jess and Elaine will probably talk during this. In fact, I predict they will since Elaine's already said she would and since Jess hasn't spoken during this roundtable. Predicting is what Medium's about. Patricia Arquette plays a psychic. Allison. Allison is married to Joe and they have three children. Elaine and Jess?

Jess: I'll toss out that the kids are really great. There are three daughters and the young actresses who play them do a very good and very realistic job. I'm saying that, me. I know Ava and C.I. don't comment. They don't comment good or bad. Not on children. And the reason being if they only commented when there was something good to say about child actors, then when they didn't comment, everyone would know they didn't think those actors were any good. So Ava and C.I. just do not comment on child actors. But I will and I will say that those three young actresses bring so much to the show. My favorite's Bridget by the way. She's completely wacky. She always cracks me up because she's always got a scam going to get something out of her parents. She's funny. And when she gets a dramatic scene, it's all the more dramatic because it's coming from the one who's usually the clown and jokester in the family. But all three of them are wonderful and if you had a sibling or two or more growing up, you're going to relate to those morning scenes where everyone in the family makes it into the kitchen.

Elaine: They really are something. They do deserve praise. And the entire show works so well together. The cast. One thing that does worry me is Manny seems more distant to Allison this year. Especially in the latest episodes. He can be pretty cold to her lately and I'm really not understanding where that's coming from. But other than that, high praise for the show and, of course, Patricia Arquette is the glue. She's truly amazing in the role and each year just goes deeper and deeper into Allison. No other actress could have done this part and made it a success. This was a unique victory for Patrica. She deserves so much praise. And what an eye. The episode she directed, help me out, C.I.?

C.I.: The one with the flashback to the eighties where a bomb was built to destroy a government building.

Elaine: Thank you. That was some intense work. From the angle choices in the kitchen where a father burns a son's hand on the stove, etc. That was just a really powerful episode and was so well done. There's a scene where Allison goes over to the now grown man's home as he's preparing to leave town in shame and that's probably the best blocked and shot scene I saw all year on any program. That was the first episode she's directed, right?

C.I.: Right.

Elaine: That was just pretty amazing especially for it to be her first time.

Jim: Prediction on how it's ending this year?

C.I.: Well --

Jim: You're going to give spoilers? You?

C.I.: No. I was going to say regardless of where it goes next year, it has been the heavy hitter for NBC on Monday nights. It has regularly been NBC's top rated Monday night show. And Medium has repeatedly been putting on the chopping block by NBC and saved at the last minute. Or spared at the last minute. But no one's expecting that to be a problem this year because this year it has out performed every other show the network's had on Monday nights. So predictions aside, what is known is that Medium had an incredible season ratings wise.

Jim: Okay, well let me bring in Ava and then we'll end the roundtable. Ava, C.I. noted Medium should be back next year based on ratings. What of Heroes and Chuck?

Ava: NBC has too much money invested into Heroes to pull the plug now. They will let it ride out and, for the same reason, there will be a fifth year of the show regardless of next season's ratings. So that's season four next year and season five starting in the fall of 2010. Chuck? Chuck costs much less per episode than Heroes and it also kick starts the night. So you'd think it's ratings wouldn't need to be as high for it to survive. But there are some who are tired of the show -- I'm talking at NBC. And there are some who gripe about this season's lousy ratings. But the problem with the ratings was that NBC didn't promote it during the summer. They didn't air it all summer long. So you had their small-ish audience aware of the show and some came back last fall and some didn't. If NBC wants Chuck to be a hit, they'll need to start airing it this summer.

Jim: Okay and that's the roundtable. The illustration is by Betty's kids, Kat and Wally. We thank them for it.
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